Blending: A Vintner’s Ace in the Hole

One of the special places on Earth for growing Cabernet Sauvignon grapes is the Rutherford sub-appellation of the Napa Valley.

When it comes to Rutherford, it’s all about producing a wine that smells and tastes like its place of origin — and that means tweaking the blend from vintage to vintage.

French vintners have taken this approach for generations. In the Bordeaux appellation, for instance, it’s rare to encounter a 100-percent varietal wine, whether it’s entirely Cabernet Sauvignon or entirely Merlot. Most vintners utilize both varieties in their cuvees, and many include smaller portions of Cabernet Franc, Malbec and/or Petit Verdot as well.

They blend to evoke a sense of place.

There are other reasons for blending as well.

In the cases of both artisanal and mass-produced wines, a vintner may blend to develop and then perpetuate a “house style.” When a wine is similar from vintage to vintage, it has a better chance of becoming a mainstay on restaurant wine lists.

Blending also can help “save” a vintage in which a particular grape variety falls short in quality or quantity. There are some years when a vintner can’t make a world-class varietal Cabernet Sauvignon, but can craft a really tasty blend.

When the ultimate goal is simply to produce an outstanding bottle of wine, rare is the vintner who does not embrace blending.

Art. Science. Necessity. Whatever you call it, blending is a vintner’s ace in the hole.

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